Washington: In an apparent indirect reference to traditional India-Pakistan rivalry, a top US general in Afghanistan today said that many countries would continue to compete for strategic influence "both openly and covertly" with one another in the war-torn country.
"While many of these countries will continue to compete both openly and covertly with one another for increased influence in Afghanistan, all will benefit from a more secure and stable country," General John Campbell, Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Testifying before the powerful House committee, Campbell, however, refrained from identifying the countries that are competing for increased influence in Afghanistan.
"Regional players such as Iran, India, China, Russia, and the Central Asian states have a shared interest in supporting the continued security and increased stability of Afghanistan," he said.
"(Afghan) President (Ashraf) Ghani has shown real leadership and vision by engaging with regional leadership and on the wider global stage for a more secure and stable country. President Ghani appreciates that Afghanistan needs regional support in order to realise his vision of transforming Afghanistan into a vital transportation and commercial hub in Central Asia," he said.
He said the US is also keeping an eye on the potential emergence of Islamic State (IS) militants in Afghanistan.
"IS has become one of my Priority Intelligence Requirements. Thus far, we have seen some evidence of limited recruiting efforts, and a few Taliban have rebranded themselves as IS. This rebranding is most likely an attempt to attract media attention, solicit greater resources, and increase recruitment," he said.
"The Taliban networks are well established, and significant ideological, sectarian, and cultural differences exist between the movements. The Taliban have already declared that they will not allow IS in Afghanistan, but the potential emergence of IS has sharply focused the ANSF, National Directorate of Security (NDS), and political leadership.
"All are collaborating closely in order to prevent this threat from expanding. Additionally, the budding presence of IS in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas also offers another opportunity for both countries to work together.
"For now, we assess that there is a potential threat that IS can establish a credible presence in Afghanistan. We remain cognisant of this latent danger and we will continue to monitor it," Campbell said.